From Ddanzi Ilbo:
Would you allow Nazis in our society?
Once, I was in Austria, walking down the street with some local friends when for some cheeky reason that I can’t recall I did the Hitler salute. My friends looked startled and told me to put my hand down immediately, and to never do it again. Their reaction was very serious – it was as if I were flashing in public.
Fuck, I wasn’t really worshipping Hitler or the Nazis –gone for 70 years now– and I was an obviously Asian-looking foreigner. So why would they react so strongly to this little gesture? I tried to hide these thoughts and my embarrassed eyes but their faces were solemn, as if they were parents teaching their kid that ‘no means no’. I had to accept it. It was something absolutely forbidden.
In fact, in Germany, if you create, keep or import Nazi-related symbols such as the swastika, you can get fined or jailed for up to 3 years. It is a criminal offense. In other European countries, such acts are either a crime or a serious social taboo that can ruin your social life. I knew that as a fact but wasn’t aware as to just how serious it really was before this little episode.
The sensitivity of this issue was highlighted during the UEFA European Football Championship last year. In a match between Germany and Denmark, some German supporters held up a neo-Nazi banner and chanted Nazi slogans. The UEFA fined the German Football Association 25,000 euros. These kind of incidents have been happening all across Europe since the 70s as the neo-Nazi and far right movements slowly began to regain territory.
Before you just nod, here’s one thing you should be aware of. Technically speaking, those regulations infringe on the grand principle of the freedom of expression. Not just Europe but most countries in the world constitutionally guarantee freedom of expression so that people can freely express their thoughts about politics, religion, etc. In the West, even satanic cults are not illegal as long as they don’t get violent or abuse individuals. There are, however, clear exceptions to this freedom.
You would question whether it is righteous to make exceptions violating the freedom of expression. There are many undesirable occasions where exceptions based on social and political reasons are used to suppress minorities. For example, not that long ago, American protestants once defined black people as ‘semi-human’ and rationalised oppression and discrimination against them. Also, in Korea, communists were depicted as beasts; like wolves or pigs, and it was insinuated that torturing or executing them is justifiable.
Nevertheless, advanced European countries define Nazi-related expressions as a taboo and a crime, whilst bearing the infringement on the freedom of expression, even though there is no substantial threat coming from such acts right now. How would you make sense of this? Are those Europeans just being pretentious hypocrites? Let’s see.
One of the terms I made up is ‘absolute common sense’. it may be seen as just more dogma because of the word ‘absolute’ but it isn’t something new at all. I just use the term for convenient communication. What in the world could be categorised as ‘absolute common sense’? What could I put into this category without committing the fallacy of dogma? And would it be okay?
There’s only one. Human rights.
Now let’s think about why human rights (in a broad sense) belong to the absolute common sense which stands above all other values. Everyone learned about human rights and may agree with its importance but not many people might have thought about it in depth. People would usually regard it as a natural part of ethics but you have to convince yourself of its worth to give life to its true meaning.
Human rights realise human beings’ most humane value, ’empathy’ – that guarantees co-existence and prosperity of self and others. One of the most notable traits that set humans apart from other creatures is that we can feel how others may feel based on our own emotions and experience. This is mankind’s important biological trait obtained through the evolution of brains. Reptiles don’t have the frontal lobes. They cannot be altruistic or take care of their own babies.
Empathy is a double-edged sword from an individualistic point of view. Humans can build a civilised society where they can live together fairly and safely with the power of empathy. On the other hand, others’ misfortune and social injustices that do not directly harm you can inflict pain on you and even make you lose the meaning of life. Humans are social beings who cannot be happy alone.
Since we can put ourselves in other people’s shoes, we don’t overlook others’ pain and help them. We also try to be fair in business and relationship. When you fail to do this, you become a greedy being who makes other people suffer. If this selfish tendency is extreme, we call them psychopath.
Psychopaths, who cannot experience empathy due to brain defects, do not feel remorseful or get affected by other people’s tragedies. They can live an emotionally simple life. From an individualistic point of view, they are strong survivors who can do anything to pursue their own interest without any internal conflict. However, overall they threaten their social group’s well-being. Primates and humans might have evolved in the direction of having empathy because it is beneficial for the entire group.
In this sense, civilisation exists in order to provide mankind with safety and happiness by institutionally ensuring our biological characteristic, empathy.
My tone might be cold and analytical but I’m just saying that biologically ingrained empathy is what makes human beings humane. If you want to find intrinsic beauty in humans, you may choose empathy over intelligence. In modern times, humans have created sophisticated values beyond the immediate biological instinct and the modern world is founded upon those. That all humans should be respected regardless of their race, gender, physical ability, sexual orientation, etc.
Unfortunately, we also have selfish and greedy reptilian parts in our brains. To overcome that nature and protect human rights practically, we need many devices along with intellectual and emotional awareness. Freedom of expression, freedom of assembly and association, right to vote, right to be elected, universal suffrage, secret voting, separation of social powers, etc. These systems in democracy and constitutionalism exist to ensure equal human rights. Human civilization has come to a theoretical agreement to these principles, apart from how they are actually implemented in reality.
Now problems arise. Contradictions happen because man-made concepts and systems are not perfect and the reality is complicated. Take an example of criminals’ rights. Criminals get Miranda warning, ‘innocent until proven guilty’ principle, the Fifth, right to an attorney, application for challenge, etc. Confessions due to torture or coercion are null and void and they still have limited rights inside jails or detention centers. Not many people may object to this.
However, what if living in jail can be more comfortable than living as a working class person? What if a cruel criminal doesn’t have the freedom to move around but still enjoys his life in jail? We inevitably get upset as soon as we realize the punishment for a criminal who killed an innocent person for no reason could be merely making him live in a neat apartment. This discomfort cannot be ignored as it comes from a sense of justice but it’s hard to find a solution that can satisfy everyone.
In a similar manner but in further depth, conflicts regarding the freedom of expression arise. Should this freedom also ensure the freedom to voice out in support of suppressing the very freedom of expression? Should we draw a certain line with auxiliary principles to not fall into contradictions?
Here I believe the infinite freedom of speech cannot and should not exist. It cannot be regulated in an arbitrary way, either. There is only one cause where limited freedom of expression can be justified. That is when universal human rights are on the verge of being violated.
Let’s go back to the discussion about the Nazis. Are Nazi symbols prohibited just because Nazi Germany lost the Second World War? That is not enough. The reason why most Europeans agree with regulating them is due to the inhumane aspects of the values promoted by the Nazis.
Napoleon also waged war to conquer other countries and expand his territory but he is regarded differently from the Nazis, because he had the ideal of expanding republicanism without racial or ethnic prejudice. However, the Nazis were a completely anti-humane organization and they blatantly promoted such values, not just limited to the Holocaust where Jews and other ethnic groups were purged.
In September 1939, Nazi Germany promulgated a law that permitted the murder of mental patients and disabled people. It was under this eugenic reasoning that they were seen as obstacles to maintaining the Aryan race’s superiority, wasting national resources. This law was abolished in 1941 but more than 150,000 civilians and injured soldiers had already been put to death. Before the law, the Nazis promoted the euthanasia of disabled people, mental patients and the elderly for the sake of saving social costs. From 1932, they implemented the sterilization of over 400,000 ‘genetically inferior’ male and female citizens.
The Nazis thoroughly crushed the principle of protecting the weak, which is an important aspect of universal human rights, and instead consistently demonstrated hate and contempt. Due to this inhuman nature, Europeans are willing to sacrifice the freedom of expression when it comes to the Nazis. When there is a conflict between human rights and the methods to achieve it, the only answer is to put fundamental human rights above all. This is the reality.
I was just thinking it is the price that Germans or other Europeans have to pay for their tragic history. This story, however, is not so distant any more.
Korean society went through its own rough history and has been developing democracy and modern social systems ever since. But in retrospect on the events that happened over the last several years, it seems development happened too rapidly whilst our society lacked experience – unlike Europe, which went through hundreds of years of trial and error. As some people have pointed out, the democratisation momentum from the June Democracy Movement in 1987 is outdated, and conflict between the conservatives and progressives has become more pronounced than ever. No value that would encompass all has been created. This resulted in Lee Myung-bak and Park Geun-hye‘s presidency.
What truly worries me is a new scene born in this mess. My acquaintance’s nephew is a high school student and in his mind, the Gwangju Democratization Movement was a riot by commies, despite the fact that the government officially acknowledged it as a legitimate democratisation movement a long time ago. What has influenced the young Korean mind, seeking fun without critical thinking or reflection, is a certain website that you guys will know very well [referring to Ilbe].
It started out as a humor site but now it’s full of hateful posts that attack immigrants, disabled people, females, children, homosexuals, etc. as well as the same old slanders on Jeolla-do and leftists.
When they were slandering former President Roh Mu-hyun, I regarded such rude and mean acts as individual shallowness. He was a leader. He might have been a victim of our society but was not in a socially weak position after all. In this sense, Ddanzi‘s aggressive criticism or ridicule about Gaka [Lee Myung-bak] was within the boundary of the freedom of expression.
However, it is a completely different matter when you express cruel and shameless hatred toward socially weak people. Today in 2013, the Republic of Korea is a funny society that allows a venue that promotes inhumane prejudice and hateful claims. In that venue, immigrants and disabled people are described as trash who waste social costs. Children and women are just sex toys, and criminal sexual harrassment experiences are bragged about or even encouraged [on Ilbe].
It isn’t any different from the inhumanity of the Nazis seeping out in Europe. There have been numerous confrontations and conflicts in this country until today but, previously, there was no such venue where a mob can collectively share the sadistic joy of slandering and attacking socially weak people and minorities.
Therefore, now our society has to judge those vulgar acts that slash human rights and common sense regardless of our personal political orientation. [We have to learn] Why Europe, where extensive freedom of speech is guaranteed, outlawed Nazi expressions. Why child porn is strictly prohibited in the Western world despite their bustling porn industry. Why racially-motivated hate speech and aggressive remarks on the socially weak are illegal in most of the ‘civilised’ world. Now we’ve reached a point where we have to take that as our own reality, and draw a clear line.
We can’t physically get rid of the ‘brutality’ that remains in our brains. We can, however, shackle it, – that’s our society’s duty. If you mechanically apply the freedom of expression principle even for Nazi-like hatred toward the weak without contemplating the meaning of freedom, it is nothing but negligence.
Now we have to clearly draw lines about what is socially acceptable, and what is not based on legal and institutional guidelines. We need to define what constitutes a criminal act with common sense, regardless of personal progressive or conservative ideologies. Without doing so, there is a big chance that our country will soon become a shameful abomination in the world.
Whether our GDP is $30,000 or $300,000, we need to sort this out. Am I wrong?
Comments from Ddanzi Ilbo:
What makes you so afraid of just saying the site’s name? New cable TV networks openly criticize Ilbe. Ilbe has a lot of problems. It looks like a psycho fest and if you go to PC bangs, you will notice many guys in their teens or 20s browse the site. As Ilbe has become famous, even elementary school students say gibberish like ‘Chun Does-tanks‘ and ‘Skate‘ while playing online games. It’s spine-chilling to see the website brainwashing little kids to praise the dictator and blatantly say scary things like ‘roll over them with a tank’ in jest. Most highly up-voted posts in Ilbe are like these. Slandering Jeolla-do, misogyny, praising Park Chung-hee and Chun Doo-hwan. What’s really scary is that it seems to be promoted by the administrators. In other sites, such posts would be deleted by admins. Their down-vote button is blatantly labelled ‘democratisation’. They make fun of the Lee Ho-sung incident. Those memes came from conservative idiots. Pyo Chang-won brought up a conspiracy theory about who might be behind Ilbe. Ilbe was originally a site collecting DC Inside’s popular posts without their own content but it has since become a huge site. There is one admin named ‘Saebu’ and not even his name is known. There is no other source of revenue other than the banner ads but even computer experts at CoolEnjoy gossip that Ilbe has an incredibly perfect server system. It is known that Ilbe even supports two other sites. Even websites like DC and Ruliweb struggle with server management and ask big portal sites like Daum and Naver for server hosting. But how can Saebu alone manage his server perfectly even supporting other sites? Where does he get all the funds? Very suspicious. Pyo Chang-won’s TV program tried to identify who’s running Ilbe but failed in the end. Now even Nakkomsu‘s finished. Is there anybody who can dig into this? The Nazi party started out as a small group of bums gathering at a pub and became the culprit of the World War. I’m just worried Ilbe would trigger something bigger eventually. I hope the authority designate Ilbe as a harmful site and deal with it. Even if they can’t shut it down, I hope they make it inaccessible for the underage.
It is just nonsensical to compare Ilbe to Nazis. They make a fuss about Ilbe but it isn’t that bad. Just like some conservative idiots make a fuss about foreigners’ crime rates that aren’t much higher than locals. IMO, the demonisation of Ilbe by progressives by comparing them to Nazis is more dangerous than conservatives’ jongbuk rhetoric. Insults on ex-Pres. Roh Mu-hyun can be legally dealt with by his foundation or the DUP. Misogyny or anti-feminism was intensified during the Kim Dae-jung and Roh Mu-hyun administrations. Relevant institutions or political parties can deal with that issue. Plotting sexual crimes against children or women in Ilbe isn’t particularly frequent when you consider the actual sexual crime rate. You can take legal action against idle police or site administrators who don’t put a leash on them but it doesn’t make sense to call for shutdown of the entire site. It may be dangerous that losers like me suffering from social deprivation flock to Ilbe, but they can be at best domestic abusers later (if they succeed in getting married). They simply vent out their inferiority complex as keyboard warriors. There is no possibility for them to mobilise a Nazi-like group or systematically commit sexual crimes. They are just affection-starved monsters created by our society. And you know who’s behind them, right? Byun Hee-jae [right-wing commentator] criticises portal sites like Daum for being pro-Roh but they also host New Daily and Dailian articles. Have you visited those sites? Korea’s most prominent chaebols, conglomerates and public companies all put their ads on the sites. After all, we are all wrong.
If you guys truly care about human rights, drop the fascist rhetoric like ‘shut down Ilbe’ and encourage a constitutional amendment:
Constitution of the Republic of Korea, Article 1:
(1)The Republic of Korea shall be a democratic republic.
(2)The sovereignty of the Republic of Korea shall reside in the people, and all state authority shall emanate from the people.
The above can be interpreted in favor of fascism as long as the people agree with it.
Constitution of Germany, Article 1:
(1) Human dignity shall be inviolable. To respect and protect it shall be the duty of all state authority.
If you care about human rights even a little, you shouldn’t acknowledge our collectivist constitution that blatantly promotes fascism. The Nazi party was elected democratically and their inhumane atrocities such as massacring Jewish people were approved by the majority of German citizens at that time.
Do we have to use a carrot or a whip on North Korea?
Do we have to use a carrot or a whip on Ilbe?
The answer is similar.
Before bashing North Korea, crush American imperialism.
Before bashing Ilbe, stop the pro-Roh camp’s crusade of enlightenment.
You went too far. I lurk in Ilbe when I have time and it’s too much to call Ilbe Nazi. Of course, the listed bad cases do exist there but they are an extreme minority. In fact, there are many good informative posts. You said Ilbe is full of hateful posts that attack immigrants, disabled people, females, children and homosexuals. It’s true that they bash Korean females a lot but there are not many posts bashing the other groups in your list. (There may always be some since there are all kinds of people on the site.) Korean females are bashed to death. Boseul, Kimchi girls, ‘[beat them] once every three days’… They are in line with the Man of Korea. For immigrants, Joseonjok [ethnic Korean Chinese immigrants] people are bashed a lot. Maybe because of Wu Yuanchun and many voice phishing crimes done by the Joseonjok. I haven’t seen many posts that hate on other migrant workers from SEA, etc. Jasmine Lee is bashed a lot but I don’t think that’s just because she’s an immigrant. They call themselves disabled but they don’t mean to hate on disabled people. They just frequently use curse words involving the mentally or physically disabled. And there is really no post hating children. Sometimes they hate on delinquent teens but there are not many posts about them in the first place. As for homosexuals, they call themselves gay… In addition, there is even a sub forum for homosexuals on Ilbe. They are left alone. Anyway, what happens in Ilbe is strangely exaggerated maybe because some people are new to a conservative site like that. If you take a look, there is not much bashing on socially weak people. If you really want to impose that angle, [you could argue that] females might be the main victim of Ilbe. However, it doesn’t seem like Ilbe netizens consider women socially weak. They usually bring posts written by women from Nate Pann and bash them. Most times, they bash comments like ‘men have to spend more money for women’. It doesn’t seem to stem from some biological reason. If they find a woman who advocates going Dutch and splitting bills, she is praised for being a sensible woman. Since there are much more male users on the site, there seems to be a notable victim complex against women. What’s also interesting is that if you identify yourself as female, they bash you for ‘boming out’ [boji + coming out]. It’s funny that they try to get rid of any special treatment for being female. FYI, they love animals like dogs and cats so much. They even call Ilbe ‘animal storage’ [‘daily best storage’ is the official name].
A political reproach or satire on politicians can be tasteless but it is within the freedom of expression. The problem with Ilbe is their anti-social and immoral remarks. Since 1998, when did Ddanzi ever promote regionalism and sexism or infringe on the human rights of others? Naggomsu’s rough language can be allowed as political satire. But when Kim Yong-min made a controversial comment about rape and murder, he was criticised by the progressives in his camp and, as a result, he failed to win his election. That was because his remark was against a common moral standard, that should come before considering his political ideology. Ilbe guys keep doing thuggish douchebaggery that has nothing to do with political ideology and still call themselves conservative. If they are criticized, they try to make it look like a conflict between the left and right. However, they are hated on for their anti-social, inhumane and immoral acts, not their political beliefs.
What the.. Wasn’t it Ddanzi who first used slang, cursing and parodies as political tools? Naggomsu was the climax. Ilbe bugs were born out of it. The original sin of degrading both left and right can be attributed to the Ddanzi. Park Won-sun said we should be able to praise Kim Il-sung in a true democracy. What the hell is that? Is Germany not a democracy because they can’t chant Heil Hitler?
They are just a group of cynics. If you feel victimised by a system, you have to try to fix that unfair system. But they gave up on everything but cussing. Ilbe is the right gathering place for them. I guess you wrote this article for those pitiful Ilbe guys.
한국에 과연 파시즘이:
I wonder if fascism is possible in Korea because it’s a very multi-polar society. It seems you are worried that a demogogue like Hitler might become influential in Ilbe and make it common knowledge that 5.18 was a riot. It may be feasible if someone like the student from Philadelphia who argued with Chin Jung-kwon catalyses the unity of Ilbe users, and is armed with logical arguments.
Isn’t it insulting to define Ilbe as conservative for the real conservatives? Since when has promoting misogyny, sexual harrassment and regionalism been considered the identity of the conservatives? How is saying Skate or Jeolladian different from racism in essence? What’s bad about Ilbe is that they dilute the meaning of bad terms. DC Baseball Gallery first used the word BBQ to make fun of the Daegu subway accident [that saw a fatal and tragic fire break out on the Daegu Metro]. At first, people were saying it couldn’t be more immoral but what about now? You get used to it and this is the scary part. In a similar vein, a shoping mall owner used the Lee Ho-sung meme in a product brochure and a call center employee wrote ‘a customer living in 7 o’clock [Jeolla-do]’ on Twitter. You would find ‘Jeolladian’ or ‘Gotham Daegu’ in subtitles on TV. Since those words have been used so much that their original ill meanings have been diluted. Can we not take this seriously?
As long as they don’t exert physical or verbal violence in real life, whatever gibberish they write on the Internet should be in the realm of free expression. The freedom of expression wasn’t just conceptualised by a few smart brains. It was established after going through lots of trial and error for a long time and the so-called advanced countries constitutionally guarantee it. After experiencing all kinds of abnormalities such as Nazis, racists, homophobes, pedophiles, etc., they came to a conclusion that the freedom of expression should be protected after all. The fundamental question is who would decide the guidelines based on common sense? Would my common sense be the same as yours? Would a few elected representatives make the guidelines? Do the assemblymen you voted for listen to your opinion through an effective communication channel? No, they just do whatever they want after they get a seat. Should we vote on each guideline? Even if 48% of people disagree like in the presidential election, should they accept it for the over 50% of people? Did you see last year big wigs banned the translated version of ‘Salo or the 120 Days of Sodom’ because they were worried that some young people will have an orgy eaching poop. Okay, they are a stick in the mud but how tolerant are we? I don’t know what percentage of Korean citizens might belong to that ‘we’. It isn’t common sense that everyone can agree on. ‘I’m fucking horny. That elementary school bitch outside the window looks yummy today. I want to fuck her face, suck her ass, blah blah…’ If I write something like this on a message board, should I be punished? Even if I never did anything to that girl in real life? It wouldn’t take much effort to go back to the old days. We can easily go back to the early 90s when Ma Kwang-su received a criminal penalty just for publishing a book about sexual fantasy.
Some people claim Ilbe hasn’t reached a worrisome level yet. When do we have to begin worrying then? You would begin caring if at least one post per hour infringes on human rights? Even if it’s just one post per year, shouldn’t the site admin be punished if he neglects it on purpose? The right or wrong is not a matter of frequency. The authorities concentrate their workforce on highly problematic areas for administrative efficiency and Ilbe deserves to get such attention for its size and frequency of offenses.
What’s worrisome is the social attention Ilbe is getting rather than Ilbe itself. As Umberto Eco said, modern intelligence seems to regress. Wasn’t the Bush administration almost like theocracy? Christian fundamentalism… Korea has the same problem, needless to mention North Korea’s Juche ideology. I take Park Geun-hye’s presidency as a symptom in such context. Return to an autocratic state… One senior student studying sociology once said this. If center-left Roh Mu-hyun administration is regarded extreme, a scary far right-wing administration will be born… I thought it was bullshit but with Lee Myung-bak and Park Geun-hye in power, I guess it might not be just bullshit after all.
Even in Sweden that Korean progressives try to follow and the US that Korean conservatives try to follow, abortions or sterilisation for the disabled or mentally ill were implemented like in Nazi Germany. Other European countries as well. Of course, Germany’s case was extreme but wasn’t it due to their unfavorable conditions where they had to compete with the US-UK alliance without colonies as a late comer rather than Nazi Germany or German people’s particularly low awareness of human rights at that time? In other words, we have to look at the issue in the context of then-popular eugenics, the identity of modern nation-state and the capitalist world order instead of demonising and singling out Nazi Germany, which doesn’t give us much insight. Demonising them as if they have nothing to do with us can make us forget about our own responsibility. Didn’t Arendt talk about the universality of evil? That everyone has evil inside them. When life is hard, people tend to look for scapegoats. In the 14th century when the Black Death swept through Europe, the Jews were victimized. In the 17th century Europe with its little ice-age, some protestants were victimised. In the early 20th century Europe, Jews and people with disability were the victims. Oh, there is a group of people who were victimized through the entire capitalist world order. Black people. I guess you tried to make a point about human rights from Nazi Germany’s systematical genocide in order to criticize Ilbe’s bullshit against women, Jeolla-do and disabled people. If I had to comment in a Ddanzish way, I’d say it’s like you wasted protein from fucking the wrong hole. Well, it sounds Ilbe-like as well. Sex seems to be the humor code that governs both Ddanzi and Ilbe.
Typical double standards of ‘if I do it, it’s romantic but if you do it, it’s unfaithful’. Why would you liken them to the seed of Nazis just because they make nasty parodies and criticise the social weak that nobody has actually defined? In a similarly narrow perspective, can we denounce your Ddanzi as a group fostering Marxist garbage, Kim Il Sung and Lenin? Isn’t Ddanzi like an ‘ancestor’ for Ilbe in the way it all began? Since the mid 90s, as you grew breaking the typical frame of the government and authority, you have defined yourselves as the vanguard of democracy resorting to the freedom of expression. Why can’t you use the same standard for Ilbe? As someone who used to giggle reading Ddanzi Ilbo in his teenage years, I feel this article is like ‘an old hag in bad shape lamenting on a young chick walking down the street shaking her tight T&A’. If you find something overwhelming, do research and beat it. Nothing changes if you complain to the wall in your closed room.